After an awful 2007, Miami Heat coach Pat Riley is hoping 2008 can reverse the team's fortunes. The Milwaukee Bucks are probably hoping for a similar turnaround in the new year after a forgettable last 12 months.
The Heat and Bucks are two of the worst teams in the Eastern Conference, and they'll meet in Miami on Wednesday in each team's first game of 2008.
Miami (8-23) is just two seasons removed from the franchise's first NBA title, but entered the new year in last place in the East.
The Heat trailed by as many as 30 points in their 96-74 loss to Washington on Saturday, when they were held to a season low in scoring. Miami, which has played its last two games without Shaquille O'Neal (hip) and its last three without point guard Jason Williams (left knee), has lost four straight and eight of 10.
"One positive point about tonight's game is that this is the last game of 2007. It's been a bad year,'' Riley said. "Hopefully, with the start of the new year, things will change - if we get healthy.''
The Heat completed this past calendar year with the sixth-worst record in the East at 39-44, but 2007 went worse for the Bucks.
Milwaukee (11-19) finished this past year losing its last four, and 15 of its last 19. The Bucks, owners of the third-worst record in the East, completed the 2007 calendar year an East-worst 23-58.
Milwaukee is coming off a 114-69 blowout loss to Detroit on Monday afternoon - its third-most lopsided defeat in team history.
"It just doesn't make sense,'' Bucks coach Larry Krystkowiak said. "We're not mentally ready to come out of the locker room, take care of the ball and do all the right stuff. The act is getting a little bit old right now.''
Things have been particularly bad for Milwaukee on the road, where it has lost nine straight by an average of 15.5 points. The Bucks are just 2-15 away from the Bradley Center, and they finished the 2007 calendar year a mere 5-35 on the road.
It's been the same story for Milwaukee in Miami, where it has its lost six straight games at American Airlines Arena by an average of 19.0 points.
The Heat have won 10 of their last 12 games over the Bucks - including two of three last season - and won those two games by a combined 49 points.
Dwyane Wade averaged 29.0 points on 62.3 percent shooting and 8.3 assists in three games against the Bucks last season, and hopes to come out refreshed in this game after getting three days' rest.
A night after playing 51 1/2 minutes and matching a career high with 48 points in an overtime loss to Orlando, Wade had more turnovers (seven) than made baskets (five) and finished with only 12 points on Saturday.
"It's a sign of the way things are going for us," said Wade, who sat out the final 18 1/2 minutes.
Michael Redd led the Bucks with 18 points on Monday after scoring 69 in his previous two games combined. Redd had 28 points in his only game against the Heat last season, a 121-95 win Dec. 20, 1996.
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